Did you know that your pets can get sunburns just as easily as humans can? It may seem as though your pets’ fur would provide enough protection from the sun’s rays, and in part this is true, but there are areas of your pet that do NOT have this natural protection. It is up to you to keep your pets safe!
What areas of my pet are susceptible to sunburns?
Animals with light-coloured noses and skin, and very short or missing fur are the most vulnerable to the sun’s harmful rays. Pets who have suffered hair loss from allergies, hot spots, disease, surgical preparation, or radiation are also vulnerable. Even if your dog does not fit these categories, if he/she enjoys facing their belly to the sun, or if their normally thick hair has been shaved down, they could also be at high risk! The areas that are the most at-risk for a burn include:
- Inside legs
- Bridge of nose
- Ear tips
- Skin surrounding lips
- Areas with low pigmentation
- Paw pads
Although paw pads are not often burnt from prolonged exposure to the sun’s rays, they CAN be easily burnt from walking on hot asphalt for too long! Most pet owners believe that these pads are resilient enough to handle all weather conditions, but they can be quite sensitive!
What are the symptoms of sunburn in my pets?
If your pet is sunburned, it can make itself known by the appearance of red skin, or hair loss. These are the common signs of burns due to prolonged heat exposure. If your dog is limping during a walk in the heat, they may have burnt pads. If the center of the pads have patchy white blisters, this confirms the suspicion.
How can I prevent and treat a sunburn in my pets?
The solutions to the problems discussed in this article are quite simple. You may have guessed it– sun screen! That’s right, sunscreen can and SHOULD be used on your pets. Buying a sunscreen specific to your pet (cat, dog, kitten, puppy etc.) is important! Using ordinary human sunscreen is a bad idea, because it can be toxic upon digestion, and we wouldn’t put it past our furry friends to lick it all off! The sunscreen you purchase should be fragrance-free, non-staining, and contain PABA as the active ingredient. (It should be noted that sunscreen with Octyl Salicylate should not be used on cats).
Remember to be very generous with your sunscreen applications! It is recommended to use about 1 tablespoon for every AREA treated, and should be re-applied every 4-6 hours.
As for the pad burns, wearing booties is recommended for long walks. Your pet will not be happy at first (remember when you made them wear a collar for the first time?), but they will get used to it eventually. Wearing booties once a day will be a lot nicer than wearing bandages from burnt pads!
Foil, C. S. (2013, July 23). Sunscreen for pets. Retrieved from Veterinary Partner website: http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&S=0&C=0&A=2367
Gfeller, R. W., Thomas, M. W., & Mayo, I. (1994, December 31). Sunburn. Retrieved from Veterinary Partner website: http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&S=0&C=0&A=380
Kuhly, P. (2009, June 24). Burnt pads, sunburn and other often overlooked, hot-weather hazards. Retrieved from Pet MD website: http://www.petmd.com/blogs/dailyvet/2009/June/24-4294
Content Contributor: Dr. Sandy Drury